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life and animation; where I hear on every side the sound of exultation; where every one speaks of the past with triumph, the present with delight, the future with growing and confident anticipation. Is this not a community in which one may rejoice to live? Is this not a city of which one may be proud to be received as the son? Is this not a land in which one may be happy to fix his destiny and his ambition—if possible, to found a name? [Applause.] I am asked how long I mean to remain here. They know but little of my heart or my feelings who can ask me this question. I answer, “As long as I live.”
DOUGLAS WILLIAM JERROLD
[Address by Douglas Jerrold, dramatist, journalist, humorist (born in London, January 3, 1803; died there, June 8, 1857), delivered before the Whittington Club, London, at a soirée to celebrate its inception, on February 29, 1847. This was an institution of Jerrold's own creating, and he was called to the chair as its first President.]
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:—The post of danger, it has been said, is the post of honor. I was never more alive to the truth of the saying than at the present moment. For whilst, from a consciousness of inability duly to perform the duty to which you have called me, I feel my danger, I must, nevertheless, acknowledge the honor even of the post itself. But it is the spirit of hope that has called us together on the present most interesting occasion, and in that spirit I will endeavor to perform the task, not rendered particularly facile to me by frequent practice.
It is my duty, then, as briefly as I may, to dwell upon the purpose that brings us together this evening, and, as simply as lies within my power, to explain the various objects of our young institution—the infant Whittington. And even now it must be considered a most promising child—a child that has already got upon its feet; and though not yet eight months old—not eight months, ladies—is even now insisting on running alone. But, gentlemen, while you rejoice at the energy of this very forward child, I beseech you to have a proper humility, as becomes our sex in all such cases, and take none of the credit to yourselves.
Indeed, no man can have the face to do so, looking at the fair faces before him; for therein he cannot but acknowledge the countenance that has made the institution what it really is. The great spirit of our day is the associative spirit. Men have gradually recognized the great social truth, vital in the old fable of the bundle of sticks; and have begun to make out of what would otherwise be individual weakness, combined strength; and so small sticks, combining themselves together, obtain at once the strength of clubs. Now, we propose, nay, we have carried out such a combination, with this happy difference—that whereas such clubs have hitherto been composed of sticks of husbands and single sticks alone—we, for the first time, intend to grace them with those human flowers that give to human life its best worth and sweetneSS. I think I recollect the little copy-book text that says: “Imitate your betters.” Now, I have a dark suspicion that, though this word “betters” was in that text of early morality or copy-book text, it nevertheless signified richer. Well, in this—by no means obsolete—sense, we have, by the formation of the Whittington Club, only imitated our betters. We have paid them the respectful homage of following their example. The gold sticks and silver sticks, and chamberlain's rods, and black rods of high society, have bound themselves together for mutual advantage and mutual enjoyment; and why not the humble wands of life? If we have clubs composed, I may say, of canes with gold heads—or, if not always with gold heads, at least with plenty of gold about them—if we have clubs of nobles, wherefore not clubs of clerks? For my own part, there are lions and tigers, even in the highest heraldry, for which I have certainly no more respect than for the cat, the legendary cat, of Richard Whittington. Nevertheless, the proposed institution of our club has, in two or three quarters, been criticised as an impertinence—as almost a revolutionary movement, disrespectful to the vested interests of worshipful society. It has really been inferred that the social advantages contemplated by our institution would be vulgarized by being made cheap. These pensive prophets seem to consider the refinements of life to be like the diamonds—rarity making their only worth; and with these people, multiply the diamonds, ten thousandfold, and for such reason, with them, they would no longer be considered fit even for a gentleman. These folks have only sympathies with the past. They love to contemplate the world with their heads over their shoulders, turned as far backward as anatomy will permit to them that surpassing luxury. Nevertheless, there is a tenderness at times, in the regret of these folks, for vested interests—a tenderness that makes it touching. Tell them, for instance, that this city of London is about to be veined with the electric telegraph; that wires vibrating with the pulse of human thought are about to be made messengers 'twixt man and man, and these people “beating their pensive bosoms,” will say, “Yes, it is all very well,” —with these whispering wires—this electric telegraph; “but if wires are to run upon messages, what—what is to become of the vested interests of the ticket porters?” Why with these people the rising sun itself should be to them no other than a young fiery revolutionist, for he comes upon the world trampling over the vested interests —that is, the darkness of the last night. However, to briefly scan the various purposes of our institution, we intend to use two club-houses—two to begin with—whose members may obtain meals and refreshments at the lowest remunerating prices. Well, surely men threaten no danger to the state by dining. On the contrary, the greater danger sometimes is when men can get no dinner. In the most troublous times, knives are never to be made so harmless as when coupled with forks. Hence I do not see why the mutton-chop of a duke at the Western Athenaeum might not be imagined to hold a very affable colloquy with the chop of a clerk, cooked at the Whittington. We next propose to have a library and a reading-room. We intend to place the spirits of the wise upon our shelves—and when did evil ever come of wisdom? It is true our books may not be as richly burnished as the books of Western clubs—our library may not have the same delicious odor of Russian leather—in a word, our books may not have as good coats on their backs; but it will be our own fault if they have not the same ennobling spirit in their utterances. It is also proposed to give lectures in the various branches of literature, science, and art. Well, I believe I am not called upon to say anything in advance of this intention. There was a time, indeed, when lectures addressed to the popular mind were condemned as only ministering to popular dissatisfaction. The lecturer was looked upon as a meek Guy Fawkes dressed for an evening part; and his lectures, like Acre's letter, were pronounced “to smell woundily of gunpowder.” This is past. Literature, science, and art are now open sources; the padlocks are taken from the wells—come and drink! Languages, mathematics, music, painting, will be taught in the classes—in classes that I hope will, like the gourd, come up in their fulness in a night. Occasional entertainments, combining the attraction of music and conversation, will be given— such attractions being enhanced by the presence of ladies. And here I approach what I consider to be the most admirable, as it is the most novel, feature of the institution —the admission of females to all its privileges. I think the Whittington Club will enjoy the rare distinction of being the only club in London popular among its fair inhabitants. I know that this rule—the admission of ladies —has been made the subject of somewhat melancholy mirth. The female names already numbered best rebuke the scoffers; for have we not Mary Howitt—a name musical to the world's ear—a name fraught with memories of the gentlest and tenderest emotions of the human heart, voiced by the sweetest verse? Have we not, too, Mary Cowden Clarke, whose wonderful book, the “Concordance to Shakespeare,” is a votive lamp lighted at the shrine of the poet—a lamp that will burn as long as Shakespeare's name is worshipped by the nations? But I feel it would be more than discourtesy to such names, further to notice the wit made easy of those who sneer at the principle which admits ladies as members of the Whittington Club. “To employers and employed alike,” says the prospectus, “the Whittington Club appeals with confidence for support.” Certainly to employers the institution offers the exercise of a great social duty, namely, to assist in a work that shall still tend to dignify the employed with a sense of self-respect—at all times the surest guarantee of honest performance 'twixt man and man. Nevertheless, whilst